Carlos V Palace

Carlos V Palace

When Carlos V came to Granada on his honeymoon, he fell in love with the Alhambra and the city. He took up residence in the Arab palaces but decided to build his own larger, more spacious palace adjoined to the Nasrid Palaces so that he could continue to enjoy them.

He commissioned the architect Pedro Machuca to design a building befitting a Roman Emperor and work began in 1527. Machuca died in 1550 and his son Luis took over. The project was then continued but most of the major work had by this time been completed.

Facade

This Renacentist building is 63m2 square on the outside with a 30m diameter circular courtyard on the inside. Originally there would have been a well in the middle but this has now been covered over.

The project was partly paid for with taxes collected from the Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) in return for being allowed to stay in Granada and continue with their traditions.

Doric columns

Ionic column

The building has two levels: the lower level of the patio has 32 stone Doric columns and the upper level has 32 Ionic columns. The building was to be covered with a domed ceiling like the Pantheon in Rome but was never finished and the roof on the superior gallery was only completed in 1957.

Carlos V Palace courtyard

Carlos V never lived here. When he died, Felipe II transferred his court to Madrid in 1561 and in  1607 Madrid became the capital of Spain.

Today, the building houses the Museo de Bellas Artes with exhibits from the Alhambra.

For more photos of the Carlos V Palace, please visit this page.

How can I get to the Alhambra?

The Alhambra sits on the Sabika hill, 100 metres above Granada. There are four main ways to get to the Alhambra ticket office:

  1. Walk up the Cuesta Gomerez (pedestrian only – 1,100m from Plaza Nueva)
  2. Walk up the Cuesta de los Chinos or Cuesta del Rey Chico (pedestrian only – 720m from Paseo de los Tristes)
  3. Catch the 30, 31 or 34 minibus from anywhere along their routes.
  4. Drive along the Ronda Sur – the Granada ring road and park in the Alhambra carpark (map).

The best page with information on this subject is granadainfo.com

Click here for
Information on getting to the Alhambra

Useful buses for getting to the Alhambra.

 

Carlos V

Juana la Loca

When Queen Isabel died in 1504, her will stated that her daughter Juana should succeed her on the throne. Unfortunately, Juana suffered from schizophrenia and this wasn’t helped by her husband Felipe’s frequent affairs. Following his death after short illness (though some believed that he had been poisoned by Juana’s father, Fernando), Juana went mad and her father Fernando acted as regent until his death in 1516.

Emperor Carlos V

After Fernando’s death, Carlos became King and he was to become one of the most powerful rulers in the world. In 1520, he was crowned Carlos V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, an empire on which “the sun never set”. When his father Felipe died in 1506 he became Duke of Burgundy and ruler of the Netherlands, and on the death of his grandfather Fernando, he became King of the Two Sicilies and of Spain. His plan was to establish his court and residence in Granada to commemorate the Catholic Monarchs conquest of the Moor’s last stronghold and with this aim, he commissioned the Carlos V Palace.

Having become a European leader after a power struggle with France, he decided to retire and split his empire between his brother Fernando and his son Felipe. In 1556, his son became King of Spain and Carlos retired to a Spanish monastery in Yuste where he died in 1558.

Space of the month (November 2010) – Casa de la Calle Real

The Calle Real Alta passes through the Medina (the city of the Alhambra where the courtiers lived) and stretches from the Puerta del Vino to the Parador de San Francisco. This was where the workshops of the craftsmen responsible for the Alhambra decorative work were to be found.

This month, it is possible to  visit one of the houses in the Calle Real which was built between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The house was built around an interior courtyard and is of particular interest for its decorative plasterwork.

The house is open between 8:30 and 18:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday throughout November.

Restoration of the Lions

Lions from the Patio de los Leones

The lions will return to the Patio de los Leones in January 2012. Until then, they can still be seen in the exhibition near the courtyard in the Carlos V crypt with information about the restoration work. After four years of initial research and investigation, restoration began in 2006 but their return to the courtyard has been delayed by the need to repair the original leaking water pipes which were installed last century.

The lions as they were before restoration

NEWS: The lions were returned to the Patio de los Leones on  Jan 15, 2012

Alcazaba

Alcazaba and Torre de la Vela

The triangular Alcazaba with its thick walls and towers was the main form of defence for the Alhambra against attack. This is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and was the site of the original red castle. It was Mohammed I who built the surrounding walls and the three towers: the Torre de la Vela (Watchtower) in the far-right corner, the Torre Quebrada (the “Broken” Tower) and the Torre del Homenaje (the Keep). Work on the palaces began later and the Sultan lived here until they were finished.

Alcazaba (citadel)

The Alcazaba was the main military residential area and where the soldiers responsible for defending the Sultan and the Alhambra lived. A walkway runs through the middle of the Alcazaba and the smaller houses on the left were probably for single soldiers without families while the larger ones on the right were for soldiers and their families.

The houses were built around an inside courtyard: downstairs would be the main living room, the food store and the latrine with more rooms upstairs.

Torre de la Vela & battlements

As a city in its own right, this area would have had silos, an arsenal, steam baths and a bread oven where food would be prepared. Below the Alcazaba are the dungeons and this was where the captured prisoners were held.

For more photos of the Alcazaba, please visit this page.

Torre de la Vela

This tower dominates both the Alhambra and the City of Granada. The tower itself was built in the 13th century during the Nasrid Dynasty and the bell has always played  an important role in daily Granadinian life.

When Boabdil surrendered, the Royal standards of the Catholic Monarchs were raised from the tower. Nowadays, four flags are flown from the tower: the blue European flag, the green and white Andalucian flag, the red and yellow Spanish flag and the red and green Granada flag.

The bell has been replaced several times over the years and the current one dates back to 1773. The bell tower was originally positioned in the corner of the tower but was moved to its current position in 1840 and then rebuilt in 1882 after it had been struck by lightning.

Until recently the tolls were used by farmers to mark  the changes in irrigation turns. It  is also rung every year on 2nd January in commemoration of the Taking of Granada.  Traditionally, single girls would climb the bell tower and ring the bell and it was said that if they did, then they would be married before the year was out. These days, anyone can ring the bell and the bell rings non-stop all day.

During the time of the Catholic Monarchs, the bellringers were appointed by the military governor. They would normally be soldiers who had been injured in combat and they would live in the bell tower itself. The last person to live there was Encarnación “La Velera”, who was the widow of the last bell ringer.

Puerta de los Siete Suelos

This south-facing gate is opposite the medina and was built in the middle of the 14th century for military and ceremonial events. Following Boabdil’s surrender, Christian troops entered the Alhambra through this gate on the morning of 2nd January 1492.

Legend has it that Boabdil left the Alhambra through this gate as he fled Granada for the Alpujarras and that out of respect for him, the gate was then blocked off so that no one else could pass through it. It now appears, however, that it was only filled in in the mid-18th century.

It was only reopened in 1812 when Napoleonic forces attempted to blow it up. The gate was rebuilt in the 1970s.

What happened in the years after the Moors surrendered?

King Fernando

Queen Isabel

Although the treaties signed by the Catholic Monarchs with Boabdil for the surrender of Granada stated that the different languages, religions and customs would be respected, after a few years it became clear that this was not happening in practice, and Cardinal Cisneros insisted that everyone, regardless of their religion, be baptised.

The inquisitors had never been happy with these treaties which they believed slowed down their attempts to reduce the Muslim population and the practice of Islam in Spain. They also thought a Muslim revolt was imminent and that it was useless to expect peaceful conversion to Christianity. Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros therefore asked Isabel and Fernando for permission to continue his inquisition activities and they agreed. Consequently, on 18th December 1499, some three thousand Moors were baptised, a major mosque in Granada was converted to a church and the burning of supposed religious books and documents began.

This understandably led to revolts and protests with a lot of unrest among those who had been forced to convert to Christianity, and a series of mutinies followed, culminating in the 1680 revolt which was finally put down. The most determined rebels fled to the Alpujarras where there was a violent uprising several years later.

Cardenal Cisneros

Although promises were made that the treaties would be honoured, this did not happen and Cisneros announced that those Moors who refused to be baptised would be expelled. These baptisms were carried out en masse and at an incredible speed – so fast in fact that there was no time for religious instruction to be given to the new “converts”. It has been estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 Muslims were forcibly baptised in this way in Granada. The offer of emigration to Africa was really only a hollow promise and only available for those who were able to pay and who had not already been baptised.

Queen Juana ("La Loca")

After the Catholic Monarchs died, things got progressively worse: Queen Juana forbade the Moriscos to wear their national dress, and Carlos V introduced a theological council in 1526 which attempted to reform them. These rules were not rigidly imposed and people were able to avoid them by paying certain taxes.

King Felipe II

That all changed, however, with Felipe II who prohibited the use of Moorish dress, language and customs. As a result, there was a violent uprising on 24th December 1568. It began in the Albaicín and continued on into the Alpujarras with the Morisco Aben-Humeya being proclaimed king. Reinforcements were sent from Africa and the revolt extended to the rest of the province of Granada. Churches were burnt, villages ransacked and Christians were murdered. Following the death of Aben-Humeya, the uprising was eventually squashed in 1571. The rebels were then expelled from the kingdom and it was subsequently repopulated by Spaniards from other parts of the country.

The Mexuar

Mexuar entrance

There are two parts to the Mexuar: the Sala de Mexuar and the Cuarto Dorado.

The Mexuar was completed in 1365 and this was the reception area for business and administrative purposes where members of the public were received. This was also where the Sultan’ listenend to his subjects’ requests and where he dispensed justice.

Sala de Mexuar

During the Nasrid dynasty, the room was square  with four marble pillars and shorter but was later extended. The wooden ceiling at the entrance is original (picture) as are the columns.

After the Christan conquest, the room was converted into a chapel with the altar on the wall on the left of the entrance and the choir stalls directly opposite.

At the far end is the Oratory and this faces Mecca. Initially it was cut off from the Sala de Mexuar but the floor was lowered and an access to the Sala de Mexuar was opened.

Sala de Mexuar: decoration

Sala de Mexuar

Originally the room was covered with a glass dome but this was removed in 1540 to make way for an upper floor with additional rooms and windows and wooden shutters were then added to provide more light.

How many gates does the Alhambra have?

There are seven gates in total. There are four exterior gates: the south-facing Puerta de los Siete Suelos and Puerta de la Justicia, and the north-facing Puerta de las Armas and Puerta del Arrabal; and three interior gates: the Puerta del Vino (opposite the Carlos V Palace), and Puerta de Hierro. There is also an additional gate (Puerta de los Carros) which was built later.

What different types of gate are there in the Alhambra?

There are two main types of gates in the Alhambra: exterior ones for defence such as the Puerta de la Justicia on the outside walls of the fortresses and interior ones to control access to different parts of the complex. As exterior gates provided points of weaknesses, they were built with right angles inside. The interior gates, meanwhile, like the Puerta del Vino, were built with benches inside on either side for the guards.

What modifications were made to the Alhambra over the years?

During the reign of the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando (1492-1516), a lot of the original decorative work was filled in and whitewashed, and paintings and decorations were destroyed. Emperor Carlos V (1516–1556) then totally rebuilt some parts of the palace in the Renaissance style and added the unfinished Carlos V Palace when he decided to take up residence there. Philip V (1700–1746) then decorated the building in a more Italian style for his palace. During the centuries that followed, the Alhambra fell into a state of disrepair,  was inhabited by thieves and beggars and then used as a barracks by Napoleon’s troops. Further damage was caused by the retreating French troops to some of the towers and two of the gates (Puerta de los Siete Suelos and Puerta del Agua) in 1812 and an earthquake in 1821. After centuries of neglect and abandonment, the Alhambra was rediscovered in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers and restoration then began in an attempt to restore it to its former glory. Generally speaking, the square towers were built during the Nasrid dynasty and the round ones during the Christian era.